Tag: Kevin Correia

Pittsburgh Pirates Ready for First Winning Season in Almost 20 Years

Opening Day is near and the Pittsburgh Pirates are finally making some moves to put a winning team on the field.

I was born in Pittsburgh in November of 1991. I was technically alive (though probably not conscious) when the Pirates finished the 1992 season with 96 wins and 66 losses and lost to the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series.

Since then, the Pirates have failed to win more games than they lost every season. My 17-year-old sister has never been alive for a winning season for the Pirates.

With one of the nicest ballparks in MLB, the Pirates still attract thousands of fans to home games despite poor performance on the field. Poor ownership, management and team chemistry have led to the longest winning season drought in ANY major professional league.

However, this year, the Pirates might finally hit the .500 mark. It is 2012 after all. 

Maybe this was part of the Mayans prediction.

The pitching is…not terrible. Kevin Correia was selected as an All-Star last year along with closer Joel Hanrahan.  The Pirates actually made a big splash in the offseason for the first time in a long time by acquiring A.J. Burnett, a starting pitcher in the 2009 World Series Champion New York Yankees‘ starting rotation. He is expected to be the team’s ace once he returns from an injury to his eye.

The Buccos showed a lot of potential last year. 

At the end of July, they were in first place in the NL Central and showing they could win. The season started to fall apart (as usual) after a blown call led to a Pirates’ loss to the Braves in a 19-inning game.

The Pirates are fairly young and still developing. 

Outfielders Andrew McCutchen (25), Jose Tabata (23), and Alex Presley (26), third basemen Pedro Alvarez (25), second baseman Neil Walker (26) are emerging as leaders for the Pirates and have a drive to win.

Lastly, the NL Central is a weak division. 

Albert Puljos no longer powers the Cardinals and Prince Fielder left Milwaukee—both of the NL Central’s playoff representatives in last year’s postseason. Both St. Louis and Milwaukee are still great teams, but maybe not quite as good as last season. 

A few wins here and there against the division leaders, and the Pirates might be able to pull off a winning record.

Picking the Pirates as a playoff contender is a stretch, but an above .500 season is not. 

There are 162 games in an MLB season, and for the first time in almost 20 years, the Pirates have a chance to contend (contend being the key word) for a playoff slot and finally end the depressing days for Pirates’ fans.

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Pittsburgh Pirates: Pitching Has Been Good, but Will It Stay That Way?

It’s difficult to imagine things having gone any better for the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff through first eight games in 2011. The offense has hit for a team on-base percentage of just .312 and a stunningly bad (but not league-worst) .295 weighted on-base average. But the pitching has kept the team in every game it has played.

And they’re winning.  

The Pirates are 5-3 almost entirely behind their starting pitching and bullpen, with some cameo appearances from outfielders Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen, second baseman Neil Walker and first baseman Lyle Overbay.  Third basemen Pedro Alvarez has been terrible.  The offense has, really, gotten contributions from four people.  

And they’re still winning.  Yes, it’s the pitching.  But have the pitchers really been all that good?  

The staff ERA is a sleek 2.76, which is unattainable for any team.  No club can keep the opposition under three earned runs per game for an entire season.  There will be a regression to the mean.

The question at hand is just how hard the crashing down to Earth will be when it happens. 

The guess on this end is that it will be pretty destructive.  Their K/BB ratio is third worst in the league at 1.52 and they’re only striking out two batters every three innings.  Those numbers are even worse for the starting pitching, which has itself covered a bit by the extraordinarily K-prone closer Joel Hanrahan.

The ERA is 2.76, but the fielding independent pitching (FIP) is 3.62, and the xFIP (fielding independent pitching with an expectation of home run rates rising to league average) is a lousy 4.62.  Translation: The Pirates are getting lucky. Lucky to have had so many balls hit to stoppable spots and lucky to have given up just three home runs in eight games despite having the 11th highest flyball rate in the league (39.3 percent).  

The team defense has been okay in spurts so far this year, but in reality, the only members of the starting lineup with above average defensive pedigrees are Tabata, McCutchen, Overbay and injured catcher Chris Snyder.  With a pitch-to-contact staff, it seems unlikely that its pitches will keep being hit right at fielders.  

Pittsburgh’s rotation is far from the worst in the league, as some anticipated it would be before the year. There’s a good shot that they can be at least respectable this season, and the bullpen should be above average if Hanrahan, Jose Veras, Evan Meek, Mike Crotta and Chris Resop stay healthy.

A playoff rotation, however, they are not.

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Pittsburgh Pirates Add Kevin Correia and Matt Diaz At Winter Meetings

My time in Orlando covering the Winter Meetings is about to end, but it was a very productive trip. I got a bit of everything. From shaking hands with some stars, to meeting some of my peers and some of those I strive to be like—the trip had it all.

The Pirates were a bit active as well.  I mentioned the Scott Olsen deal in my prior column.  Since then, the Pirates inked another starting pitcher in Kevin Correia and also signed outfielder Matt Diaz.

Both were solid baseball moves.

Correia struggled the second half of last season, ending up at 10-10 with a 5.40 ERA.  The season before, he went 12-11 with a 3.90 ERA.  That’s what the Pirates are hoping they get in the right hander.  Either way, Correia should be a slight upgrade.

I’ve been asked by many if Correia and Olsen are the best the Pirates could do? Well, the answer is yes.  It’s a thin pitching market at the moment and it doesn’t make much sense for the Pirates to overpay for arms at the moment.

Sticking to the plan and nurturing some of the talented arms throughout the system makes much more sense right now. The end goal is to try and compete for years, not just to take a run at .500 next season.

In the end, they get two arms in Correia and Olsen for less then they would likely have had to pay Zach Duke—had they tendered him.

That’s such an unreasonable goal anyways.  The Pirates are on the right path, but they would have to make a near 50 game improvement just to approach the .500 mark.  You would have a better chance at winning the Powerball.

Instead, keep letting the young guys develop and try and cut that number in half.  Taking a run at .500 in 2012 is a more realistic goal.  After that, the goal has to be to win.

Right now, the Pirates rotation would look like this: James McDonald, Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Correia and the fifth starter will come from the likes of Brad Lincoln, Olsen or a Brian Burres type guy.

The Pirates aren’t done looking for pitching though.  I’ve heard them linked to names like Justin Duchscherer, Aaaron Heilman, Kevin Gregg, Jeremy Accardo, Kenshin Kawakami and others.  The pair guys I’d like them to sign are Duchscherer and Accardo.  It would be taking a chance on an injury prone guy, but if healthy both are very talented.

As far as Diaz, it’s a smart move.  The guy handles lefties very well and the Pirates left hand hitters don’t.  Look for him to play right field against southpaws and give Garret Jones some time off as well. 

Good teams need good benches as well.  The Diaz signing makes sense.  If things go right, Andrew Lambo could be the right fielder late in the season anyways.

That’s the main key.  The Pirates are committed to young players.  There is no need to go out and try and sign a big name right now that will block one of their prospects.

The Diaz signing likely spells the end of Ryan Doumit’s Pirates career.  The writing is on the wall and he will be dealt before the season begins.  General Manager Neal Huntington has actively been trying to unload him and I expect it to get done before spring training opens.

In other Pirates news, they are looking for a utility type guy.  I know they made an offer to Bill Hall and also have interest in Brenden Ryan.

The one area they haven’t yet upgraded is shortstop.  They were linked to Jason Bartlett but he was dealt to San Diego.  A J.J. hardy deal has also been talked about, but he is likely headed to Baltimore.

As the market begins to die, one option could be Orlando Cabrera.

That’s likely all the Pirates will do as the Winter Meetings end tomorrow morning.  While the signings haven’t been flashy, they have done a good job at least being active.

Remember, the goal is to win on the field consistently in the future, not win the 2010 Winter Meetings.

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Luck of the Draw: The 10 Luckiest Major League Pitchers This Year

Many baseball experts discuss the pitcher who has been unlucky, who just cannot seem to win no matter how well he pitches. Roy Oswalt is the main example being used this season, and his 8-13, 3.36 ERA season is indicative of a player whose win-loss record should be flipped.

Conversely, many players get really lucky breaks, whether it’s due to a great offense or getting a lot of run support, and as a result they have a winning record despite a decent at best ERA. As such, I am listing the top 10 luckiest pitchers. Some are borderline cases, and I try to limit them to players with not so good ERAs, though some who end up on this list will have fairly good ERAs as well.

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San Deigo Padres-Philadelphia Phillies: Blows Exchanged, Friars Win Knockout

Adrian Gonzalez homered and drove in three runs and Chase Headley put together a four-hit afternoon as San Diego beat the Philadelphia Phillies 6-5 on pinch-hitter Oscar Salazar’s two-out infield single in the 10th inning, part of a 16-hit outburst by the Padres.

Nick Hundley’s hot hitting continued, as he also homered for the Padres, who scored three times in the first inning against Joe Blanton.

Yet, as was the case in the first two games of the series, the Phillies answered right back and led 5-3 before the second inning was through, behind Ryan Howard’s 3 RBI to help chase starter Kevin Correia in the second inning.

The Padres clawed back in the fourth on Gonzalez’s two-out single and tied it at 5 on Hundley’s homer leading off the fifth.

Headley opened the 10th with a single off Danys Baez (2-2) and advanced to third on a sacrifice and a grounder to second. After an intentional walk to Tony Gwynn Jr., Salazar singled deep into the shortstop hole to put the Padres ahead 6-5.

Heath Bell got through a shaky 10th inning for his 15th save of the season. Bell issued a walk to Placido Polanco with one out, but was thrown out at third by Gwynn, in a potential game-saving play, trying to advance on a Chase Utley single. Howard also singled to put runners at the corners, but Jayson Werth struck out on a 97 mph fastball to end the game.

Whenever any game gets into the bullpen, the Padres have a distinct advantage, and they utilized that advantage on Sunday. Four Padres relievers delivered 8 1/3 scoreless innings.

After Correia left, trailing 5-3, Sean Gallagher delivered 3 1/3 scoreless innings, tying his longest outing of the season. After the Padres came back to tie it, Ryan Webb delivered two scoreless innings yielding just one hit.  Mike Adams followed with two more scoreless innings, and finally the Padres broke through.

Padres relievers lead the National League in ERA, strikeouts and have held opposing hitters to a league-low .207 batting average. After the seventh inning this season, the Padres have outscored the opposition 25-13, they are a league-best 6-3 in extra inning games and 8-4 in games decided in the last at-bat.

The much needed victory allows the Padres to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season with and sets up a chance for a series split tomorrow with the Phillies on ESPN’s Monday Night Baseball.

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Dontrelle Willis: Why it Makes Sense for the San Diego Padres to Sign Him

The San Diego Padres are not only in first place in the National League West at 31-20, but they also have the best record in the National League by a full game over the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals.

It’s not exactly where most people and experts thought they would be at this point in the season. Yet, the Padres have gone from potential cellar dwellers and “sellers” at the trade deadline to buyers and possibly being able to take on salary above their $38 million payroll.

They’ve gotten great pitching from young starters like Mat Latos and Clayton Richard, as well as solid veteran pitching from Jon Garland and Kevin Correia.

But what if you could add one more arm that might solidify the rotation and turn this team from a “contender” to outright favorite to win not only the division, but the National League?

I’m talking, of course, about Detroit Tigers’ left-hander Dontrelle Willis who was designated for assignment a few days ago. Signing Willis wouldn’t be expensive either. In fact, they could sign him to a minor league deal and not have to trade any of their players away to get him.

That is, if the Tigers don’t trade him to another team first.

The Arizona Diamondbacks already have interest in him, but I can’t see Willis going to a team that’s already 11.5 games back in the NL West. He has said that he would prefer to play in the National League and for a team out west.

Hearing that, I would narrow his choices to three teams: The Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and the aforementioned Padres.

At this point, I can’t see the Giants signing Willis on top of already having Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez.

The Dodgers might be a candidate to add Willis to a rotation that already boasts Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda. The once-dominant left-hander could definitely give the Dodgers a boost.

What might keep the Padres from bringing Willis on board is already having a set rotation with Garland, Correia, Latos, Clayton Richard, and Wade LeBlanc. What do you do with Willis if, in fact, you do sign him, and who becomes the odd man out?

The other question becomes, what happens when Chris Young comes off the disabled list? If Dontrelle doesn’t mind coming out of the bullpen, I’d add him in a heartbeat. But I doubt he’d be open to that.

As it stands now, the only thing we do know is that Dontrelle wants to be back in the National League and he wants to play for a team on the west coast. That being said, we saw how things worked out for John Smoltz when he left Boston for St. Louis and when Brad Penny also left Boston for San Francisco.

Could Willis become the dominant pitcher he was in Florida by returning to the National League? He still has a lot left to offer a team, so whoever signs him is taking a risk that could pay off huge.

As it stands now, and if you’re asking me, I believe the Padres could be the biggest benefactor by adding Dontrelle, especially for a fly ball pitcher in a ballpark where fly balls go to die.

He could definitely help them pull away from the rest of the pack and be a contender come playoff time.

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Who Are These Guys? Padres’ Rotation Scoring Big for Nickels and Dimes

By now, everyone knows the 2010 Padres are very well so far in 2010. Currently at 26-18 and in first place in the NL West, they are this author’s biggest surprise of the first two months of the 2010 season, second to only the AL East’s amazing Blue Jays.

The Padres’ five-man rotation has been phenomal, and is making a COMBINED $9.5 million salaries for the 2010 season. Three of its five members are making under $500,000. By comparison, the Chicago White Sox are paying former Padre Jack Peavy $15 million this year.

Here’s a synopsis of the Padres 2010 rotation, complete with their salaries and also their individual statistics at pitcher-friendly Petco Park.

Can these Padres continue to compete?

In the sad-sack national league, anything is possible.

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Clutch Hitting and Strong Pitching Are Keys To First-Place Padres’ Success

After last night’s rally and dramatic bottom of the ninth victory, the Padres (17-10) assured themselves of having another successful homestand.  Winners of six of their last eight games and 11-4 at home, the Padres continue to roll.

On the offensive side, the Padres are showing an ability to hit with runners in scoring position—they are second in the National League with a .293 team average.  After collecting their third walk-off win of the season, they are also proving that they have the ability to come through when the game is on the line.

Showing that he is a go-to-guy in the clutch, with two outs, Chase Headley, lined a 1-0 count single to the right-center gap, scoring Lance Zawadski from second base.  This was Headley’s second walk-off hit of the season; the other walk-off hit for the Padres was a home run by David Eckstein.

Aside from the timely hitting, strong pitching has also been a major reason for their early season success—with a 2.81 team ERA that ranks second in the NL. 

Last night’s starting pitcher, Wade LeBlanc, called up to replace the injured Chris Young in the rotation, allowed two earned runs over six innings, received a no-decision. 

In three other starts this season LeBlanc (2-0, 1.16) has only one earned run and has shown a lot of promise.  LeBlanc was the pitcher of record in two of the Padres’ Major League leading six shutouts.

Opening day starter and free-agent acquisition, Jon Garland (3-2, 2.06) has been a steady contributor.

Veteran Kevin Correia (4-2, 3.97) leads the team in wins and strikeouts with 30.

Second-year starter Clayton Richard (1-2, 3.00) is beginning to hit his stride. 

The only sore spot in the rotation has been 22-year-old Mat Latos (1-3, 5.47), who has given up a team-high seven home runs.  All-star Heath Bell (2-0, 1.64) anchors a strong bullpen with seven saves in eight chances. 

It is still too early to tell if the first-place Padres have what it takes to take the division. But the middle of May just might give a clue as whether or not the Padres are true contenders. 

After a three game series against the NL’s worst team, Houston Astros, they are scheduled to face NL West rivals Dodgers and Giants from May 11-20 with five games at home and five games on the road.

If they manage to come out with a winning record against the second-place Giants and are able to take advantage of the struggling Dodgers, who were early season favorites to win the division, then the Padres will most likely still be atop the division. 

And that may just be time to start taking the overachieving Padres seriously. 

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